Archive for the ‘An Alternate View’ Category

March 5, 2010

We live in a resource based community. The two major industries are pulp and gold. Mining, because it is an extractive industry has a finite life. When the gold runs out, the industry is gone. Our  community has been anticipating the decline of the gold mines for some years now. Little did we realize that our forest industry was in greater jeopardy.

The truth is that the forest industry has been under seige for some time now and we have been slow to recognize the signs. As with most industry today the world price of a product aids in the determination of life expectancy; in this case the price offered per ton/tonne of pulp has gone down; the price of gas and diesel to deliver raw materials has gone up; the distance from the harvest has become greater; past practice of not replenishing the natural resource–replanting regularly, deliberately; all culminate in the closure of many mills in Canada and more specifically here in north western Ontario.

I find myself looking at the displaced workers from our mill. Many are people I taught in either elementary school or secondary school at some point in their lives. Memories of conversations with some of them frequently pop into my head as I observe the changes in the rhythms of the community and its inhabitants. “Hey, Sir!” said one of them in a Gr. 12 Law class 25 years ago. “I’m going to graduate at the end of this semester; go to work in the Mill and buy a new TransAm!” And he did; he did; he did. I know because the following year that same student brought his new TransAm to the school to show me. So much for attempting to convince them to stay in school and get their Gr. 13 and go on to College of University. And I thought then, “How do I argue against this?” If only I knew then what I am seeing now!

That student was one of many whose attitude was that the “Company” would always be there; the money is great–I will always have enough; I don’t need more education, my life is set.

For the past year, many of those who saw the mill as a way of life; as a way through life, are finding that they cannot get jobs elsewhere because they have insufficient education to fill the expectations of current employers. Those same people are struggling to go back to school to get high school equivalency or to get sufficiently upgraded so that they can go on to higher education in order to be retrained. All are struggling to do this now on Employment Insurance along with paying the mortgage, put food on the table, heat the house for a six or seven month winter, and on and on… The Insurance should run out shortly.

It says something to me about the need for all of us to become life-long learners. Deliberately! Take a course of some kind every year of your life. Become used to the skill of learning. Make learning a habit! Wake up each day determined to learn one thing new today that will help one grow in one’s life. Plan for the future…for the unexpected. Know that nothing in our lives is carved in stone.                      –GRB

I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more…
September 1, 2008

Daily we are hearing more and more in the news media that Prime Minister Harper is going to call a fall election. So here we go again with the expense and hype of an election before the term of the current parliament is up. This minority government was elected for a four year term for the second time.

The message that all parties should have received as a result of the last two elections is that none of the existing parties is worthy of being in power and all lack carismatic leadership with vision. But, mostly I am angry because the government passed into law a rule that elections be on a fixed date ostensibly to limit political whim from calling another election (see: That would make the calling of an election illegal (see:

Last night someone from the Conservative Party called and asked Joy if she would take the time to participate in a poll. She answered that she wasn’t interested and hung up the phone. Now I’m wishing that I had been the one to answer the phone because I would love to give the Conservative pollsters a piece of my mind and let then know how unhappy I am; that “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more…”.

Having said that, I have no idea what I should do about how angry, frustreated and betrayed I feel by our government leaders. They are where they are by the will of the populace and I expect them to do their jobs for the full term of their office. It is my belief that when  a minority government is elected, it is because of lack of confidence in any one party to lead. The message seems to me to be, “cooperate and do your job for the betterment of our society”. So how do I tell them that?

Let’s see. I could:

  1. write to every member of parliament telling of my displeasure
  2. write to each of the political parties telling them of my displeasure
  3. write to local papers about my displeasure
  4. move to Quebec and vote Bloc Québécois. Gilles Duceppe makes more sense than any of the other leaders
  5. Suggestions?

I wonder what else it will take to have our elected officials get the message?             GRB

Some days are just fraught with frustration…
August 23, 2008

Isn’t there a Murphy’s Law about when you are already really, really busy that a thousand other things will need your immediate attention? This week has been much like that so if there isn’t a Murphy’s Law about it there certainly should be one.

Joy and I have been busy all week preparing a wedding feast. We are well organized and have everything mostly ready for the event tomorrow but there have been so many interruptions that have drawn us away from the task at hand. Some of the interruptions are quite delightful; one never really minds when grandchildren appear and need a hug and a snack on their way to another great adventure. Aidan and Tannon frequently stop in on their way to their Grandma’s and Grandpa’s home (maternal grandparents live on the same street as we) or to the park at the end of the street. Three days ago Cloudia and her friend Hanna with Abby and Morgan in tow stopped in for a bathroom break, hugs and snack on their way to the park. Those are the good breaks. They refresh us and enliven us and bring considerable laughter to our home and to our lives.

It is the phone calls with blank air when one stops to answer a call while in the midst of putting a spice rub on pork tenderloin or seeding and chopping a dozen tomatoes. I am hoping that we can mitigate some of those annoying calls when the Canadian “Do Not Call Registry” is up and running. I am not certain about its effectiveness because our Federal Parliament does not have the political will to put any real teeth into it. But we will give it a try and then begin our own form of harassment to have it made into something worthwhile. Note to self: Think of creative ways to harass federal MPs  over lousy Do Not Call Registry*Grin*

More than that is the anxiety we have been feeling over getting the meal ready and dealing with the problems with our church’s manse. The church had the manse fixed up last summer and then we rented it in December. Our tenant left at the end of June and now we  are preparing the manse for the arrival of our Intern Minister. Much of last summer’s work has had to be redone. So we have been arranging for cleaners to come in and for the heating people to service the furnace and clean the ducts. In the process of getting this done we have been anticipating having to do the painting ourselves. That really means getting a group of our congregation together (in summertime) to do the painting. We have one week and also have another meal to cater on Wednesday next week.

The good news is that the painting contractor called to say he has finished a job elsewhere and “…if we still want him to paint the manse he is available…”. Now I am not prone to running about kissing people without at least more than a passing acquaintance but let me tell you, I came  close at this call. We inspected the house, accepted the price, chose the paint and the painting will be all done tomorrow. Yesssssss! *Big sighs of relief*

That’s the good news! Isn’t is strange how there is always a flip side? Yesterday I spoke to the cleaners. They are a diligent crew and do excellent work but our meeting was a litany of things they were struggling with: there is a hole in the toilet bowl so when one flushes the water rises above the hole and goes–you guessed it–on the floor. Now I know why the rags were wrapped around the toilet bowl when our tenant left. So we need to replace the toilet. When any of the hot water taps are turned on rust comes out. The water lines are copper and don’t rust. The culprit, a crack in the liner of the hot water tank. We need to replace the hot water tank. And speaking of toilets we may not be able to do much with the one in the basement. Anyone out there know any good plumbers that have time on their hands?

Then the other shoe fell. They have cleaned the carpets and they look great! It is the smell of the dog urine that they are having difficulty removing. So they are going to try some other things but if it doesn’t work then the carpets may have to be removed… Arggghhhhhhhhh! Livingroom, hallway and three bedrooms. Be still George. Note to self: Check blood pressure; have large drink; check blood pressure; have another large drink; forget blood pressure; hae nuthr dink…

A  r r u u u   u g   g    g h   hhhhhhhh hhhhh!                       GRB

Cell Phone rant…
August 1, 2008

I can’t believe my ears. I am watching the news and one of the lead stories reports Bell and Telus are going to start charging their customers not only for sending text messages but for receiving them as well. If I understand this story ( correctly, should you send me a text message you are charged $.15 for that message and I am going to be charged $.15 for receiving the message. I didn’t ask you to text message me. It is a phone. Phone me!

Cell phone users, for goodness sake send your cell phones back to the companies and stop this madness. As consumers you have the power to force the companies to change. It is not the responsibility of government to protect you from this kind of gouging. You have a responsibility to control your own destiny. Please, wake up and quit allowing the phone companies to do this.  If we all sent our cell phones back to the companies they would have to change  or go out of business.  This is utter maddness!                            GRB

The Cellular world is warped…
July 30, 2008

My cell phone bill arrived today.  I examined each of the three pages carefully, as I do each month, to see what exactly the charges cover. And here is what I have concluded. Cellular companies are strictly in the business of making money. There is precious little of what I consider value for service.

My bill breaks down something like this:

  • Monthly contract fee: $19.95
  • System access charge:$ 7.50
  • 2 calls:                        $   .50
  • Fed/Prov Sales taxes   $ 4.90
  • Total                           $32.85

By my calculations, that works out to $16.475 per call. Am I wrong or does that seem a trifle excessive for 2 phone calls? I called Customer Service to see if there was a better option than my current service. I don’t mind paying for something I use but…

It seems that the cell service provider offers a Prepaid Mobility service–only it is not in my area. The company is planning to introduce that service in the future although no timeline is forthcoming. Anyway, I wouldn’t be eligible for that service until my current contract runs out in another year and a half. It appears I am stuck with a service that I use rarely and pay greatly for. Hmmmm! I’m thinking that I didn’t really think this through before I got involved. It strikes me as extravigant for emergency use only.

I did ask about the Prepaid Mobility service though in anticipation that I might switch to it when and if the service comes to my area and my current contract is done. It works like this. I buy XX minutes of call time. There are no other fees. Now that sounds more like it! Right? Not! I have to use up the time in 30 days. I have to be certain to call someone I don’t want to talk to just so I can get the value of the money I spent on the minutes.

“Can I carry the unused portion of my calling time to the next month?” I asked. The response may as well have been something like, “Are you daft?” Apparently one cannot on pain of … well, suffice to say, I cannot carry forward unused minutes. My understanding is this: I buy X minutes of call time. If I don’t use that time in 30 days the company gets to keep my money and I get… What exactly is it that I get? Hmmmmmmm?

Am I the only one who finds this somewhat strange?                    GRB

Tugging at the heart strings…
July 16, 2008

Today I received one of those e-mails that get forwarded many times that are designed to tug at one’s heart strings to cause something to happen in support of an idea or an issue or an action. I don’t often read them because they cater to emotion rather than logic and reality. But this one was forwarded by a person whom I trust and respect–so I read the message.

It was a heart warming and good story of a Sargent in the Canadian Armed Forces who was accompanying a fallen comrade, killed in Afghanistan, home to his family. The person telling the story in the first person is moved by the whole idea and is requesting that we, the general public, participate in a movement to show support for the Canadian Forces personnel stationed in Afghanistan by wearing something red every Friday. Hence the title “Red Friday”. The intent is for a ground-swell of support for the military across Canada. It is attributed to an employee of the Workers’ Compensation Board.

It was a good story! It succeeded in its intent–to involve the reader in the emotional turmoil surrounding the Canadian Forces presence in Afghanistan. But there was something about the whole thing that bothered me then and is still bothering me. Let me explain.

  1. The language of the story wasn’t Canadian. I am not aware of fallen soldier’s bodies being returned home on commercial airlines by a single NCO. There is considerably more flag waving and attention given to the return of our dead.
  2. The phrase “…and are voicing our love for God, country and home… ” is not a Canadian phrase. While I am not a linguist and have nothing other than instinct on which to base my comment, it is a phrase more commonly associated with American politics: e.g. …God country and the American way… Canadian’s don’t normally talk of God and country in this manner. Although I do note that Prime Minister Harper is using that phrase more often in his public appearances.
  3. The whole of the message was attributed to an emloyee of title with the Workers’ Compensation Board thus lending an air of authenticity to the whole thing. The message has been sent by an individual, in authority, in a Government institution. It must have weight. I checked! The person who apparently originated the message does exist in all the details reported in the email.
  4. But the message goes on to request the recipient to pass the message on to all and sundry; to help create a movement, aground swell of support for our members of the Armed Forces deployed in Afghanistan. To not forward the message lays the guilt trip–“IF YOU COULDN’T CARE LESS — THEN HIT THE DELETE BUTTON”. So what is one to do if you don’t agree with the message but sympathise with the loss of a life?

I did some checking and the message originated in the United States in 2005 and has gone through a number of iterations until its present form today relating to the Canadian Armed Forces. You can find the details at . So here we have a rehash of a movement that started in the States in 2005 to involve the American public in supporting the involvement of the American Military in Afghanistan. Surely we don’t have to borrow ideas to show support for the Canadian Military. Are there ways we can show support that is more meaningful than wearing a red piece of cloth once a week or hanging a ribbon-shaped ‘fridge magnet’ on our cars.  How about writing a letter to some of the soldiers you know currently serving at home and abroad. Afghanistan is not the only place in the world where Canadian Armed Forces are currently serving. Whereever our military serve there is danger. Many of the youth I taught are currently serving in areas of conflict and I pray for their safety frequently.

But sometimes I wonder what all the “To Do” is about. Here we have a group of Canadian citizens who have chosen a particular career–the Armed Forces. It is a career choice that involves a high degree of risk and the possibility of death. One choosing a military carer has to consider those options when serving for it is the nature of the military to be involved in conflict. Governments have a military to be deployed in actions that are hazardous to one’s health. I deliberately emphasize the verb ‘to choose’ because we do not have the draft in Canada.

Our government has chosen to place our Armed Forces into Afghanistan where there is increased risk of death for those serving. But that is the nature of military and govennments and soldiers. So, we have a group of people who have chosen this work and now that they are doing their jobs there is a movement to have all Canadians acknowledge the action in some way. The reality is not all Canadians agree with the action of the government. But I digress. There have been 85 Canadian military deaths in Afghanistan specifically in the 5 years Canada has been involved in this action. On average 17 deaths per year is the count to date. Each one of those deaths is a tragedy for the families and friends of the fallen.

I look at that number and other numbers come to mind. According to the World Health Organization’s Mortality database there were 1,034 deaths in Canada in 1997 and 30,49 deaths in the US attributed to firearms. The Canadian Motor Vehicle Traffic Collision Statistics for 2001 from Transport Canada report 2,778 vehicle related deaths. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports 43,000 motor vehicle deaths in the US in 2005.

Each of these deaths is a tragedy and yet little is done to curb the root causes here at home. The dead don’t get flag draped coffins or parades or people lining overpasses as the funeral cars travel the route. In fact the practice of pulling to the right and stopping when a funeral procession approaches is mostly ignored these days. These numbers make me wonder why Canadians are not equally upset by the annual figures of equally senseless deaths here at home; particularly when the numbers are significantly higher than the deaths attributed to a military action in Afghanistan.

Back to my dilemma! With all these thoughts stirring in my mind along with my own political views about the Canadian Armed Forces presence in areas of conflict, how shall I respond to the e-mail? I think I will make time tomorrow to write a letter to each of the men and women from my community currently serving in the Canadian Armed Forces. I think I’ll go and visit my friend Jack, one of the few remaining WWII veterans still alive in our community. I think I’ll send a donation to MADD while I’m at it.  I’ll have to see what is can be done to make a statement about the sale of firearms in Canada. As for the e-mail–well, I don’t think I’ll wear red this Friday.                            GRB